With the NHL draft happening a couple of days ago and hockey being on my mind, it reminded me of a news story I heard while driving my car home from work over a decade ago. I was the ripe young age of 39 and had just started playing pick-up hockey again. This was probably the most serious physical activity I had done in a long time, other than some really strenuous couch surfing and some dryland training that I would do at a bar or two once in a while with my friends. It never occurred to me that I should get in shape before starting to play, despite my family’s history with heart problems, not to mention the fact that just two years earlier my doctor put me on prescription medication the size of horse pills for high cholesterol.
There I was driving happily along with seemingly no worries, listening to the radio when the newscaster relayed a story that a man had died of a heart attack while playing hockey. A sickening feeling began to rise within me – not only did I feel terrible for the person who died and for their family, but I also began to realize that very well could be me some day if I did nothing to improve my physical health. I did not want to die young and I did not want to leave my wife a widower and my children fatherless. So, I vowed to take action.
As luck or the universe would have it, a short while after hearing the news story, I was at a golf tournament. One of the auction prizes was a membership at Greco Lean and Fit. I just knew that I had to bid on it and win it; and I did. And so commenced my journey to becoming physically fit. I started going to classes 3 times a week and then 4 times a week. Later, I hired a personal trainer and continued to “bulk” up. More recently, I started competing in Spartan races. I am truly addicted to exercising.
Why did I become so addicted? Because being physically fit had, and still has, a tremendous impact on my mental health. I noticed that I was no longer criticizing myself for not being physically fit. I was no longer ashamed to take off my shirt at the gym, at the beach, the pool, or in the bedroom. It gave me more energy and the ability to do things with my children that I might not have been able to do so well if I was not in shape. But most importantly, it has been a great stress reliever. For that half hour to an hour that I workout, all my worries dissipate. Read any study and it will tell you the significant benefits that exercising has on your mental health. I personally believe that exercising sustained my mental health by itself for 10 years until that summer day in my car at work where exercise finally called in for more help.
I know that we all lead busy lives, and that it is difficult to fit something new in, like regularly working out. Think of it this way – a healthier, more physically-fit you is inherently a happier you. A happier you is more able to bring their best selves to their family and their work. Not a bad benefit in my book.